Almost thirty years ago, while working as a consultant on tourism issues in the Lake District, I came to the conclusion that while National Park status gave an area increased attractiveness to visitors this was not necessarily the case for native residents. I am not opposed to the principle of national parks, but unless the total system is well designed in the interest of all the various stakeholders they can bring blight rather than benefit. This is especially (but not only) true for local families whose working members are in lower income brackets.
Nothing that I have learned since has made me change my mind. I tried to crystalise some of my thoughts on this in a piece on this blog (To Protect? Or to Preserve?) some months ago.
It appears that at last we may be about to see action on one of the problems, the spread of holiday homes, unoccupied for much of the year and priced way beyond affordability for most local people.
“HOLIDAY homes in the Lake District could be curbed if planning authorities get their way. ….. Of the 25,823 dwellings in the Lake District National Park, 4,248 are classed as holiday or second homes – more than 16 per cent. … Peter Thornton, SLDC leader and former housing portfolio holder, said: “The problem in some communities is the proportion has got to such a stage that they drive up house prices and local people can’t afford to live there any more.”
Westmorland Gazette, 27th June
Although this example relates to the Lake District house prices are a problem in the many other beautiful areas of the North. The Yorkshire Dales also has a serious shortage of affordable housing. Some new build projects are in the offing, but many consider that current planning rules are blocking the improvement and conversion of existing buildings (refce).
Meanwhile house prices continue to escalate. A little further north in Teesdale average house prices have risen dramatically in recent years. This may be a welcome economic sign to some, including existing property owners and estate agents, but not to young people wanting to live in the area to which they feel they belong. Quoting from a recent LloydsTSB study of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty the article referenced above says:
“Country-wide, the average AONB house price of £235,215 in 2012 is around seven times higher than average gross annual earnings, up from a multiple of 4.9 in 2002.” (Teesdale Mercury)
This is not to say that turning old properties into holiday accommodation is totally undesirable. That would be far from the truth, and I wouldn’t be advertising holiday cottages on this site if I thought so, but there needs to be a balance. The needs of all the stakeholders must be considered.
For the sake of younger people living in the National Parks action is urgently needed, not a further ten years of talk.